The debate surrounding the proposed Harbor Point project has generated some of the most spirited discussions that the Baltimore City Council has engaged in recently.
I am very proud that scores of citizens were given the opportunity to participate in three public hearings held by the City Council's Taxation Finance and Economic Development Committee since early June. I am, however, disappointed that inaccurate information continues to cloud a project that could provide an enormous boost to Baltimore's economy during a time of high unemployment.
When I agreed to support the Harbor Point project, which received preliminary council approval on Monday, I did so because the development had the potential to address three important issues that I have spent the better part of my time on the council fighting for: employment opportunities for city residents, increased affordable housing and the inclusion of qualified minority-owned firms on city-supported developments.
Baltimore recently joined a handful of progressive, world-class cities by passing the comprehensive local hiring ordinance that I championed as a way to help lower the city's stubbornly high unemployment rate, which at 11.2 percent is one of the worst in the nation. The Harbor Point project stands to become the first development built in Baltimore that has agreed to my local hiring law. The law mandates that 51 percent of all new hires on a project receiving a major city subsidy must reside in Baltimore City. So, when I look at Harbor Point I see three things: jobs, jobs, jobs!
Harbor Point will help create more than 7,000 construction jobs and thousands of permanent jobs. As Rod Easter, president of the Baltimore Building & Construction Trades Council, testified before council members, these jobs will serve as the foundation of long-term careers for men and women of Baltimore.
Harbor Point's developer has also publicly committed to an unprecedented $3 million voluntary contribution to the city's inclusionary housing fund. The fund exists to increase Baltimore's stock of safe and clean affordable housing, and it was created under my landmark inclusionary housing ordinance. Originally passed in 2007, this ordinance required developers to reserve a percentage of their housing units as market-rate affordable housing. The contribution promised by Harbor Point's developer would represent the largest single amount committed to the fund since its creation.
Finally, this project stands to generate millions of dollars in contracts for qualified, minority-owned firms. Both the Maryland Minority Contractors Association and the Maryland-Washington Minority Contractors Association support the project and have called its minority contracting goals unprecedented.
During my 17 years as a member of the City Council, I have developed a reputation for my willingness to fight in the best interest of the average citizen. The record shows that I take my duties seriously, and my commitment to the Harbor Point project is in line with other votes I have cast to increase opportunities for Baltimore's residents.